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Coffee Aroma - Lincoln

Sunday 29th May 2016.

Coffee Aroma

Our second visit. This time I chose a double espresso from a two bean blend and flavours came through well. The filter process I’d tried previously failed to convince me that it had done justice to the beans used.

The quality of beans is assured. I’ve also ordered mine from Has Bean for as long as Coffee Aroma has been established.

So, you are guaranteed an interesting variety of coffee and good advice is available about how it might be prepared.

Then it all falls apart.

Both times we have visited there has been awkwardness in the staff response to our questions and to our orders.

The staff, for the most part, display knowledge and a confidence that things are being done properly with the right equipment. Unfortunately, their way of showing this veers a little strongly towards intensity and dogmatism. I’m all for enthusiasm, but not so much for preaching, whether it’s to the converted or not.

It was unfortunate that, on our recent visit, the bakes we ordered were below par. My Red Velvet cake was essentially a hit of sickly sweetness with very little, if any, suggestion of chocolate or earthy beetroot. My wife’s blueberry muffin had a strange aftertaste which was repeating two hours later. Her hot chocolate was lukewarm and very weak in flavour.

The major disappointment was the lack of an even approach to all customers. A sign for ‘Breakfast Special: Coffee and a Muffin for £3.00’ was displayed on the counter. The customer in front took her order of two coffees and two muffins and was charged £6.00. It was half an hour past midday. Our order included a coffee and muffin but we were charged full price for those (£5.10). When I questioned the pricing, we were told that the breakfast deal finished at noon. I would have accepted that as reasonable. However, when I pointed out that the previous customer had been given preferential treatment there was no offer to explain or justify that decision. You might understand why we did not bother to communicate any of our further concerns about the quality of food and drink we had been served.

I don’t excuse such behaviour. I have no idea what generates it in a business.

If you visit, you will find good coffee, properly prepared. The spaces on the street and on different floor levels are quirky and interesting. I can only judge the food on two examples but they were both a let-down.

Go for coffee which is far superior to anywhere else I know in Lincoln. Prices here match those of much inferior chains so must be viewed as reasonable.

Try Coffee Aroma for yourself. Unfortunately this review marks the end of my association with the place.

The Jews House, Lincoln

This, our first visit, was for dinner on the 25th February 2016. We were with two good friends who had already visited once and were keen to repeat and share their enjoyment with us.

The Jews House has limited space in a very old building. It is suited to fairly intimate dining. I'll put in the spoiler straight away and reveal that we had a terrific evening. Some might even have gone so far as to say it was 'pleasant' (private joke... sorry). The food was lovely and constantly distracted us from being in such very good company.  If you look away from the centred text below it will spare you being given the menu before your visit. 

We took the 'Surprise' Tasting Menu which comprised the following:

Butternut Squash Soup, Cheese soufflé

Citrus Cured Sea Trout, Salad of Crab, Avocado and Pink Grapefruit

Pork Belly Miso, Melon Sorbet, King Prawns

Wild Turbot, Jerusalem Artichokes Roasted in Beurre Noisette, Belper Knolle, Truffle and Madeira Sauce

Roast Lamb Rump, Provencale Shoulder Slow Cooked with Chorizo

Dark Chocolate Mousse, Caramelised White Chocolate Sorbet, Turron and Praline Biscuit

Passion Fruit Cream, Pineapple, Sweet Chilli and Coriander Salad, Coconut Sorbet

Front of House, Samantha Tomkins, made sure that there were no allergies or dislikes before we proceeded. The tasting menu was not truly a 'surprise'. Each course is available on the A la Carte menu. All the cooking could be achieved at home, with the important proviso that you would need a couple of week's planning and prep to achieve it!

Although chef, Gavin Aitkenhead, didn't stretch any boundaries he did just what he promises and concentrated on flavour. The combinations are mostly familiar but they are executed along with nice contrasts of texture and temperature and delivered with a sure hand by a confident kitchen. The small size of that kitchen might go some way to explain the limit on choice. Great variety is still provided within a single dish. 

Highlights for me included the concentrated flavours of fish and meat sauces. Sweet and sour aubergine and a rich tomato confit underpinning, and almost undermining, the lamb. A smoky artichoke purée was perfect with the turbot ('The Big Green Egg' had been on barbecue duty the night we visited). Oh, that melon sorbet was a winner with the pork. A fresh, tropical finish was the proper end to our meal. It was carefully placed after a rich chocolate dessert which would have otherwise swamped it. The richness was in all those endorphin-producing elements which we treasure through childhood and beyond. However, any excess here was perfectly understated and never became cloying. The salt-struck caramel confirmed chef's control.

There were a very few moments when flavours seemed too subtle. That could well be down to my struggling palate which had been challenged by so many other delights so that I'm observing rather than complaining... We had enjoyed a great meal with truly accomplished cooking.

I have still not managed to be so clever as to concentrate on the merits of both challenging food and demanding wines at the same time so it suited me that Samantha did not lead us on much of an adventure with her recommendations from the wine list. The selection there will change, so you might well be guided to enjoy new offerings. Here is what we agreed on:

2013 Iona Sauvignon Blanc, Elgin, South Africa

2012 Berry Bros. & Rudd Good Ordinary Claret

Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest 201?

All went down very well... especially with two men who had the terrible task of drinking the major part to compensate for the restraint of their lovely wives!

Samantha seems well-equipped to explain, suggest and recommend with knowledge and confidence. There is much on the wine list to explore. I try not to fret too much about restaurant wine pricing. We don't really go out quite often enough for it to be a threat to our finances. But bottle prices can certainly be a source of worry and dis-satisfaction, with potential for over-shadowing the enjoyment of eating out. If this article is anything to go by, it seems that 'The Jews House' are on track with a 'Good' mark-up of around 200%. 

Let me end by repeating the enjoyment that this visit gave to all of us. We were looked after by discreetly attentive servers and experienced food from a very assured chef and kitchen. The price we paid for our meal might just be beaten elsewhere but it was still excellent value. Lincoln has a modern-day success in a lovely historical setting. I know that we will return. Thank you to all involved.

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